Call for better TB treatment

By Angela Long

All tuberculosis services should be reviewed urgently, a respiratory professionals group says.

The call follows the recent outbreak of tuberculosis (TB) in Cork.

The Irish Thoracic Society (ITS), which represents respiratory healthcare doctors and nurses, said it was particularly concerned at the Cork outbreak because it struck vulnerable pre-school children.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) Southern Region says 16 children and two adults have been diagnosed with TB, the latest on April 23.

Eleven of these were children who attended a crèche in Douglas, Cork city, and another five were from a Little Island crèche. An adult crèche worker is believed to have spread the disease.

The HSE recently announced that the BCG vaccine would be re-introduced universally in Cork county. It is routinely administered to infants in many other parts of the country.

The Irish Thoracic Society said that TB is a preventable disease which should be controlled adequately.

It called for improved isolation and diagnostic facilities, more specialist TB nurses and additional consultant respiratory physicians with expertise in TB management.

"The Cork TB outbreak comes against a backdrop of an increasing burden of multi-drug-resistant (MDR) TB and extensive-drug-resistant (XDR) TB internationally, while a small number of cases of these strains have also been recorded in Ireland in recent years," said the president of the ITS, Dr JJ Gilmartin.

The ITS was concerned that facilities for treating TB, which was a scourge in Ireland 50 years ago, had been allowed to deteriorate. "A case in point is the TB Diagnostic Laboratory in Cork which was forced to close earlier this year due to the poor standard of its facilities," Dr Gilmartin said.

He said further promotion of the BCG vaccine would not be a comprehensive solution. "It has have proven ineffective in other countries in the control of TB."

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